Weight issues with DREAM’s featherweight tournament

When Gary Shaw left MMA many were excited because, well for one reason anyway, he took his ridiculous weight classes with him. No longer would MMA fans have to watch fighters contend for his 160 lb title or even worse the 140 lb title.

As of right now, under the unified rules, there are nine weight classes and the general consensus is that it should stay that way. There was widespread public outcry when “Big” John McCarthy and the Association of Boxing Commissions tried to expand to fourteen last July.

So what does this all have to do with DREAM? When it was first made public that the promotion was organizing a featherweight tournament, the actual weight class had not yet been determined. Even after several of the participants had been named there was no word on the actual weight. Jordan Breen, on his radio show, said that the promotion was trying to appeal to Japanese star Norifumi Yamamoto by making the weight class whatever worked best for him.

Finally when the final list of participants was presented to the media, DREAM also announced that their iteration of featherweight would be 63 kg, which converts to about 138.89 lbs. In a lot of ways this weight class is even more ridiculous than Gary Shaw’s unpopular brainchildren. Almost all North American promotions use the 135 lb and 145 lb classes, while Shooto and Sengoku both use 132 lb and 143 lb divisions.

In a sport that is becoming more and more international, quirky weight divisions do the sport a disservice. If one of the lesser-known participants comes out of nowhere and wins the tournament how will he be ranked? Could he sneak into the bantamweight or featherweight rankings? PRO MMA (promma.info) is not the only media outlet that doesn’t rank the 138.89 lb class.

On top of all this, DREAM has inked fighters from both the traditional bantamweight and featherweight divisions. Of the fighters who have fought professional MMA before: five of the fighters have been competing at or around 135 lbs, four have been competing around 145 lbs, and one fighter, Takafumi Otsuka, has even fought at lightweight.

When it comes to smaller fighters a few pounds can make a big difference. Someone who normally fights at 135 lbs or 132 lbs may be undersized at 138.89 lbs. Also, since the participants were recruited before the weight was determined larger fighters may have trouble making weight.

Despite the weight issues, this should still be a very exciting tournament. In fact the odd poundage might create some interesting inter-divisional match ups that fans would not normally get to see. However, in the modern world of MMA, the sport’s community seems to have settled on general weight classes and it can be harmful to deviate, especially if it is just to please a single fighter.

Breakdown of participants with MMA experience

Lightweight
Takafumi Otsuka

Featherweight
Hiroyuki Takaya
Micah Miller
Bibiano Fernandes
Akiyo Nishiura

Bantamweight
Atsushi Yamamoto
Masakazu Imanari
Yoshiro Maeda
Chase Beebe
Abel Cullum